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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 9 Hansard (21 August) . . Page.. 2544 ..

My office has not advised me of it. I will chase the issue up. It is not that I distrust anything I read.

Mr Stanhope: I ask that further questions be placed on the notice paper.

Crimes (Abolition of Offence of Abortion) Bill 2001

Debate resumed.

MR CORNWELL (3.30): I will make my comments relevant to the four pieces of cognate legislation and I will be brief. During the last Assembly I stated publicly that I would oppose any and all legislation on this subject.

MR SPEAKER: Mr Cornwell, I know that you are trying to assist the Assembly in the efficient passage of this legislation but, in commenting on the bill that is before the chamber, try to make sure that any reference to the other pieces of legislation is within context as the debate is not a cognate debate, as you would appreciate.

MR CORNWELL: Of course, Sir. They will be in context to the extent that I will address the first piece of legislation. I stated publicly during the last Assembly that I would oppose any and all legislation on this subject. I probably owe it to the new members of this Assembly to explain my reasons. They are quite simple. I believe that 17 members, with the numbers so delicately balanced for and against abortion in this context, are simply too few to be determining such a contentious issue. May I say, Mr Speaker, that I believe this also would apply in the event that we were successful in increasing the numbers of this chamber from 17 to 21, or indeed to 23. The situation would still be the same.

I am concerned, because of the delicate balance of numbers, that, if abortion legislation continues to be introduced into this chamber, the legality or otherwise of abortion in the ACT feasibly could change every three years after an election. If you had one or two new members, and we normally have about one-third of our membership turning over after each election, the balance of support or opposition on this subject could change every three years. Apart from the absurdity of that situation, I would ask members to consider the legal, social and, indeed, psychological issues that could be created by the change of law: it is legal for three years and then suddenly it is not legal for another three years. Can you imagine the problems that could occur from such regular swings of what I regard as a moral pendulum?

I believe that the only way we are going to settle this matter once and for all is by having a nationwide referendum. As this Assembly cannot control such an important activity, I am afraid that I must continue to vote, as I indicated in the previous Assembly, against all proposals relating to this quite divisive subject.

MR STANHOPE (Chief Minister, Attorney-General, Minister for Health, Minister for Community Affairs and Minister for Women) (3.34): Abortion is an issue that arouses deep emotions within the community and there are widely diverging views on the subject. My view has always been that access to safe, legal abortion is a human rights issue for women.

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